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  • Charlie Sandles

Pretending the Syrian Refugee Crisis Doesn’t Exist Isn’t Helping Anyone

© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri

The ignorant opinions of the mainstream media and how they are illustrating a warped reality.

Too often we take for granted such simple amenities and pleasures in life; whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has stripped us of many of these aforementioned rights and freedoms, we still aren’t in the sorrowful position of those ravaged by war. It’s common-place to hear these familiar stories of broken families- separated by war, left with no belongings, home or plan- and it’s because of this repeated exposure to this misfortune that many of us have become complacent in our attitude towards it.

Could it be a result of poor media coverage? More ‘important’ issues making our headlines such as Brexit deals and Parliamentary individuals caught up in Covid scandals? It’s devastating to fathom the possibility that these stories simply do not make front page news anymore as a result of there no longer being an immediacy to the crisis.

Whilst the media fail to expose the struggles faced by refugees, forms of literature offer the sobering reality of crises by plummeting oneself into the narrative of those experiencing it. Examples include non-fiction novels such as The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, or fiction pieces like Syria Burning by Charles Glass and Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil by Timothy Mitchell.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis- what is it?

Eleven years after the crisis began, the fallout from the Syrian civil war continues to inflict suffering and devastation to families and individuals caught up in the brutal conflict. Approximately 6.6 million Syrians have become refugees, with 13.4 million people unable to flee Syria in need of humanitarian aid.

The devastating effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic have served to worsen prospects for those affected by the on-going Syrian civil war; the unemployment and poverty pre-existing has been exacerbated by the pandemic, leaving around 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Syria driven into poverty. These numbers contribute to the existing 80% of Syrians who live in extreme poverty, in desperate need of humanitarian aid and asylum. Syria is a constant place of danger for those who still remain- violence, threat to the livelihoods of children and families and collapsed infrastructure all create a desperate reality for Syrian individuals who are exposed to not only lack of employment, education, and physiological needs, but also to disease and malnutrition as a result of poverty.

© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri

Why is it important to keep ourselves educated?

Lack of knowledge and awareness to such events can be perceived as ignorant and therefore it is important for us all to invest time into understanding the issue beyond what the mainstream media exposes us to (as often this perception of events is biased).

The exposure of the crisis in 2015 and 2016 in domestic newspapers seemingly presented the emergency as an event that had ceased to exist after 2016. However, it- as commonly seen within mainstream media- failed to attribute the deep-rooted causes of the crisis and the daunting reality faced by the refugees emerging from their war-stricken country. The reality of the situation is that the European Union have made it increasingly difficult for refugees to seek asylum in several ways; introducing penalties for travel companies transporting refugees with incorrect documentation, closing down legal routes and assuming control over migration possibilities. It forces you to reflect on whether our governments are here to protect people and encourage diversity, or simply disguise their discriminative and ever-seemingly racist values as the desire to make for a stronger, more independent country?

There is a continued belief that refugees are simply ‘economic migrants’ who are migrating to new countries in pursuit of employment. The simple difference between the two is choice; refugees immigrate as a result of the danger of persecution and are thus fleeing armed conflict. A migrant, however, describes individuals who choose to move for the prospect of improved living conditions, education or employment opportunities. This perception of refugees as migrants therefore becomes redundant, purely through the lack of an educated understanding of the difference in these labels.

Anti-immigration headlines such as ‘Migrants Rob Young Britons of Jobs’, ‘Migrants ‘Milking’ Benefits System’, and ‘Migrants: How Many More Can We Take?’ reinforce the prejudice of migrants and refugees and subsequently instil a widespread mindset that these people are simply here to ‘steal’ jobs away from domestic citizens. The truth of the situation is, however, that these individuals are forced to immigrate as a result of the devastation war has inflicted on their home country. It is like someone proposing to you that you need to find a job in a village that has no shops or residents because it has been destroyed by a bomb- it would be impossible, right? Now imagine the situation of these refugees who no longer have a home to protect themselves and their family and are therefore in a state of desperation to find a new place to live and raise their family. It no longer becomes the matter of immigrants coming over to ‘steal’ jobs, it’s the case of individuals with no other option but to up-root and hope to find housing and employment aid. Finding a job under such circumstances is already unimaginable to many of us, and that’s not regarding the language barrier and prejudice faced by these refugees.

What can you do to aid the ongoing crisis?

It remains ever important that we constantly educate ourselves of cultural events that stretch beyond current affairs that are fronted by the media. Resources such as World Vision and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provide material that can be used to educate individuals on the evolving situation of the Syrian crisis, as well as work and resources that are ongoing to aid those affected. Organisations such as Syria Relief and Action Aid offer humanitarian aid to refugees and operate on public donations, whilst additional volunteering or accommodation opportunities can be found here.


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